Taste the Linsanity

If there had been an open container of ‘Taste the Lin-sanity’, the racially lin-sensitive ice cream flavor from Ben and Jerry’s, right in front of me, I would have been offended, but I still would have wanted to try it. I do like a vanilla-lychee blend, it’s kind of Eurasian or Africa by way of Asia. It’s pretty exotic. There were also fortune cookie pieces in the mix, which actually seems kind of gross, as they are too lemony and stale in general, unless they are extremely fresh, which is rare because they are labor intensive with the message and everything. They tend to get made and sit around and for this they are made to sit around.

Is a fortune cookie still one when it lacks the fortune?

Were there little cryptic messages in the creamy concoction?

“Your sudden appearance will make everyone momentarily racist but not in an entirely unpleasant way, as sometimes they will have desserts.”

What a strange way to exhibit stereotyping – through ice cream. That is totally new. I agree that the flavor should be discontinued for the diminishing quality it frames asian American artifact and history and culture in, as it trivializes us and shows us to be merely capable of takeout food and not a political point of view, but also I think that fortune cookies are not delicious. They have potential, but it is rarely realized.

Once when I was a child I was taken by nuns to a fortune cookie factory. I must have been five, and in the care of women who wore all black with the exception of one who wore all white, and they were busy but not mean in the way I have heard many speak of nuns. I thought they looked pretty and I wondered about their hair. The fortune cookies popped off the assembly line, golden brown and perfect, filling the air with a sugary batter scent. I broke them and cast away the fortunes, being unable yet to read, and gobbled down the shards in glee. I ate a number of them, trying to capture the magic of the first bite. Even as a preschooler, I was chasing the dragon.

In the years later I would never find that taste again, and my parents rarely partook of them, as the fortune cookies sat inert and plastic wrapped on a mound of cash after dinner at Chinese restaurants. My parents didn’t care what they said inside. They were too tired from work and wanted to go to bed. They barely spoke when they ate and stood up nearly before the checks were laid down on the table. They’d pay at the counter and my father would walk out first fast down the street on his long legs. I think that the tips left were proportionally too small and they wanted to get out before the discrepancy was noticed.

That is what fortune cookies mean to me. Exhausted people living beyond their means without the support systems of extended family, trying to keep up and sometimes failing, like batteries losing their charge with no outlets to plug into.

Maybe Ben and Jerry’s thought this flavor was cute and somewhat of a tribute, as fortune cookies mean something different to them. There’s super great Chinese takeout food in Vermont – one detail I retained on a visit I paid there once to the campaign offices of Howard Dean, then just beginning his presidential run. Chinese food is a good prelude to ice cream, the salt balancing the sweet fat.

I start to think of people not meaning to be racist but lacking the language to speak about Asian Americans, us having endured invisibility for so long, they simply don’t know what to say. They don’t know how to talk about us beyond restaurant menus where you order by the number not the name of the dish as that’s too hard to pronounce, because they haven’t had to. It’s infuriating but at the same time expected. It’s hard to take but I will take it over non-existence.

And give me Phish Food every time.

9 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. imagine if all of the museums in the world were filled with paintings by number — i’m not saying that binary code hasn’t fucked things up, but imagine all of those canvases filled with mundane needle point and the limited parameters of numbers — now, that would be a new paradigm. i’ve seen it — no thanks. have a gorgeous day — breathe — and LIVE. so endearingly, amusingly lovely and spot on.

  2. I guess all of this doesn’t bother me in and of itself, but what bothers me is the different levels of sensitivity displayed toward different races. I mean, if Ben and Jerry’s had put bits of, say, fried chicken* in an ice cream to honor someone who is African American I don’t think we’d ever hear the end of it. And no mainstream news source would ever run headlines like “has society become too oversensitive with race?”

    *just ignoring for a second that fried chicken in ice cream would be disgusting.

  3. I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading this blog. It was beautifully written.

    More than your posts about tattoos, clothes or motorcycles I like to read your posts about understanding your culture (and Asian culture in general) and the phenomenon of “Linsanity,” which I think is rediculous (not minimize Jeremy Lin’s talent on the BB court). I think I learned something new today!

  4. Unintentional racism is a difficult problem. I have been filled with all kinds of ridiculous notions about races, since childhood. I often find myself being unintentionally racist. Until it is pointed out to me, I am often oblivious to it. I suppose the best solution is to treat each individual as an individual instead of a race. But I find cultural differences to be fascinating and I love the diversity of the human form. To point that out isn’t necessarily racist. For me, racism demeans and hurts. It is true that white people are clueless much of the time. Educate us. I am open to being educated. Then the faux pas is less frequent. This problem inhibits communication. Many times I have kept quiet, because I wasn’t certain that what I had to say was appropriate. We can learn from our mistakes, and understand what is appropriate and kind.

  5. I love your contrast between fortune cookie as an easy/inadequate symbol pf Asian-ness, and real fortune cookies as you and your real Asian family experienced them in real life.

    Miss Margaret, I just want to say that I’ve been a fan since “I’m the One That I Want,” but it was only a few months ago that I began reading your blog, and I’ve finally realized that in addition to being a great comedian, actor, and activist, you’re a FANTASTIC writer. A really powerful, strong, intelligent writer. You just keep getting better. 🙂

  6. First of all, amen on the Phish Food!! It doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂

    Secondly, my understanding is that this is not a packaged ice cream, but is only being sold at one Scoop Shop at Harvard, where Jeremy Lin went to school. Initially the lychee-vanilla ice cream was served with fortune cookie pieces on the side, to be used as a spoon to scoop the ice cream up with. The cookies, however, proved to weak and soggy, and so they were replaced with waffle cone bits.

    Now THAT sounds delicious to me. I love waffle cone, and I love lychee … I don’t care who it’s supposed to be “honoring.”

  7. Hello Margaret –

    My comment isn’t related to your post, which is amazing but unfortunately I’m not witty nor insightful enough to add to the discussion.

    I just want to say I really love you and your work. My Cho-dependence started when I was 14 and watched ‘Revolution’ on IFC, my TV turned down as low as possible to avoid detection from my extremely conservative Jehovah’s Witness mother. I’m 23 now and I just recently started reading your blog. You are so talented – it should be physically impossible for a single person to be as talented as you are.

    Your words and experiences really connect with me. Watching your stand up and reading your blog is the only time I don’t feel so completely alone.

    I mean all of this in the least creepy way possible. I’m just starstruck at the thought that you might read this. We should TOTALLY be pen pals. That is sooooo not creepy either.

  8. Asian American women have a hard time appreciating the full extent of Jeremy Lin’s acheivements. You really have to be an Asia American male (especially an Asian American male athlete) to truly understand what he has gone through.

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